"Success is directly proportional to the number of difficult conversations you're willing to have"
The debate on ubiquitous connectivity is littered with thousands of naysayers that have become hostages to the romantic idea that the past is better. Suffice to look at some headlines: “The web is driving us mad”, “Facebook is making us lonely”, “Social media is making us feel disconnected”.
There’s nothing wrong with nostalgia, but let’s not delude ourselves -progress is progress.
Stopping at a gas station to ask for directions is not nobler than using Google Maps. Checking out a book at the library is not better than reading one on my tablet or iPhone. I don’t miss handwriting my school essays in cursive. I don’t miss having to wait in line at the DMV to fill out a paper I can now fill out online in 5 minutes. I don’t miss finding out the night before a report is due that Encarta did not have the information I needed. I don’t miss having to schlep to the post office to ship a package (shout out toShyp). I don’t miss having to go to the bank to deposit a check. And no, I don’t think taking pictures of myself makes me an asshole.
I’ve learned more about the world in the four years since I got an iPhone than I learned in the ten years prior to that. I’ve used Duolingo to learn new languages. Every now and then I pick up a coding course on Udacity orCodecademy. I taught myself everything I needed to know to start a business using online blogs and resources like Quora. I’ve spent hours binge-watching videos on YouTube of people I look up to that have raised the bar for what I in turn am capable of achieving. I’ve learned about myriad issues I would otherwise be oblivious to thanks to TED. I’ve used Medium to share thoughts that, in the absence of a platform to share them on, would not have been given the opportunity to flourish. I stay informed no matter where I am thanks to Flipboard. I’ve contributed financially to ideas I would otherwise not know of thanks to Kickstarter. I’ve met people I now consider friends on Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn. I’ve empathized with the stories of strangers thanks to Brandon Stanton, the photographer behind the@humansofny Instagram.
But not only is the Internet generating empathy, it is mobilizing action. From Syrian refugees to gay teens to the parent of a child with a birth defect who is now able to get in touch with other parents and support groups, there is unanimous sentiment around the fact that these new communication tools have saved many lives.
I’m an optimist. I’m an optimist because increasingly, I’m seeing social media be used as a tool to make us more human, not less. Sure, we choose to portray the best version of our lives on Instagram. But already the social networks we’re designing (i.e. Snapchat) focus less on likes and followers and more on a raw, unfiltered reality. Revealing our humanness and being transparent about our thoughts and feeling is now celebrated on social media. We now have queens acknowledging via Twitter that they get nervous when speaking, CEOs using blogs and podcasts to communicate their fears, celebrities portraying their off duty lives and struggles more openly.
Contrary to what the naysayers predicted, technology is not turning us into people who hate community. Instead, it’s allowing us to break away from the constraints imposed by our offline realities and hack our connectivity through online interaction. In effect, what the Internet is doing is allowing us to create more relevant communities than the ones we are born into.
All this is not to say there is no risk with being connected 24/7.
I’m the first to admit that immersing myself in a book or lengthy article is a lot harder than it used to be. My concentration often starts to dwindle after three or four pages. I get fidgety, lose focus, begin looking for something else to do, and then get sucked into a never-ending cacophony of web links or wedding hashtag wormholes.
But what we fail to realize is that all of this is not unique to now; the debate about whether or not the pace of modern life is detrimental to society, culture, and the human experience is as old as history itself. Many of the arguments now made against the smartphone were once made against newspapers, telephones, and even written correspondence.
A group of men in Chicago in the early 1900s (left) look an awful lot like these college students (right)Socrates warned that as people came to rely on the written word as a substitute for the knowledge they used to carry inside their heads, they would cease to exercise their memory and become forgetful. Another philosopher warned that the easy availability of books would lead to intellectual laziness.
Yes, we have to develop a new etiquette to deal with the effects of having a mobile phone in our pocket at all times.
But I take issue with the idea that we are becoming a less creative society because of the information overload we’re exposed to. The current solution to this problem seems to be removing ourselves from everything digital — yes, digital detox is a thing. This is a band-aid solution. Do the majority of us really birth original thoughts by depriving our minds of new things?
Instead of discouraging the use of social media, let’s learn to use it constructively. Instead of blaming technology for our problems, let’s make ourselves accountable for how we choose to engage with it and shape its future.It is up to us to redesign technology to leave more room for deeper engagement. What if our phones were not designed to keep us attached, but rather to do a task and then release us? What if we used technology to encourage focus and make us accountable to our dreams? I’m excited to see what online experiences will break through to change the way we interact online.
Far from being intimidated, I see great opportunity. I believe advances in connectivity are driving breakthroughs in human potential, creating new skills and new jobs and fueling entrepreneurship.
I am skeptical of skeptics. I am an optimist.
I come up with new startup ideas every day, and I've never been scared to freely share them. Why? Ideas are a dime a dozen. The money is in the execution. History is littered with inventors who had "great" ideas but kept them quiet and then poorly executed them. And history is full of do-ers who took ideas that were floating around in the ether and actually made something happen.
Here are some things I've been thinking of/ideas I really want someone to build:
-I hope and believe that password-based logins will continue to go away. Passwords are so archaic, we need better options.
-I think there are opportunities for apps to connect experts to people who want their advice and are willing to pay for it. There are many jobs where experts' salaries are much lower than what their expertise is worth on a task-by-task basis. For example, a college admission officer might make $20/hour, but I bet there are a lot of high school students that would pay $50 for 30-minute reviews of their college essays.
-Instead of apps and marketplaces giving you hundreds of listings and reviews to choose a service provider or restaurant or recommend a product, I'd like to see companies that use predictive insights to generate a single recommendation based on my needs.
-We need an effective alternative to the slash and burn of the recruiting industry
-I spend countless hours dealing with customer service issues and getting transferred left and right. With so many human/software combo concierge companies being started, I can't wait to see a company that effectively deals with customer services issues on your behalf.
-So many mothers have to sacrifice their careers to drive their children to and from school and to and from extra curricular activities. I'd like to see innovation in the ride sharing space that targets childcare related transportation specifically and comes up with creative ways to ensure safety.
-Scheduling still sucks. I'd like to see services that use AI to schedule your meetings.
-No more paper receipts, ever, anywhere.
-Taxes simplified. I still find tax season so daunting and it hurts to pay my tax accountant 2-5k to help prepare my personal or business taxes.
How to get your shit together in one afternoon
Resurfacing this old hilarious article of a mom sharing her views on expert sleep advice - reminds me of the conflicting advice for startups.
The though process behind the redesign of many websites.
Kids are asked if they'd rather be rich or happy
Soho House is planning world domination.
Three times you think you're being nice
People Mag makes it easy to tell congress how you feel about gun control.
Instagram founder pauses to reflect on Instagram's 5th birthday.
_Humans of NY has been sharing the stories of refugees. Worth reading.
I can't pinpoint exactly where I heard of Bubble (I browse the internet in deep linking), but I'm always excited when a low-key company I've been tracking gets traction. Today, Bubble was featured on Product Hunt and received the most upvotes from the community. I admire their bold vision to revolutionize programming so people can build sophisticated web apps with no code. So much tech talent is spent doing menial tasks (i.e. developing a sign in functionality) and this gets in the way of tackling bigger issues - robotics, AI, healthcare, big data, etc... I have no doubt this will change, and Bubble is an important step in that direction.
It's hard to imagine a future where anyone can build software with no code, but the general trend in the history of technology is that everything becomes easier over time, and as it does, more people adopt it. When Apple was founded, people had to master the command line to use computers. Then Apple made a fortune by making computing accessible to everyone through a visual, intuitive experience.
There is no shortage of websites and schools that will teach you how to code. But why learn to code? What we need to do is learn how to think in a programmatic way (thinking about flows, data structure, conditions, etc) while not having to worry about the syntax. Imagine the potential we'd unleash if anyone was able to produce technology and build solutions to their problems?
I'll definitely be watching this space.
"Launching a product to the world is like having a baby — you thought that the pregnancy was the thing, but you don’t even know until the baby is out how much pregnancy is not the thing."
Video may have killed the radio star in the 1980s, but podcasts are no doubt resurrecting them.
Unless you've been living under a rock, you've seen thaat podcasts as a form of media consumption have skyrocketed to popularity over the past year.
And while Serial may have put podcasting on the map again, here are some other great podcasts to keep up with:
Re/code Decode: A sampling of conversations, interviews, and insights from some of the most interesting people in the startup world including CEO/Founder of Buzzfeed and Linkedin..
The Tim Ferris Show interviews Naval, founder of AngelList: I haven't listened to all the episodes of the Tim Ferris Show so I'll only recommend this episode. There's tons of wisdom in almost every statement coming from @naval, who has been called "the nicest guy in tech".
TED Radio Show: Can't be bothered to trawl through hundreds of TED talks to find the ones that you might love most? Thankfully the folks at TED have collected some of their best speakers under key themes, then condensed them into hour-long episodes for your listening pleasure.
Oh Boy by Manrepeller: One-on-one conversations with cool women about their life and work. Honest, real, and refreshing. Particularly loved the episode with Amy Odell.
#girlboss radio (coming soon) - While not yet out, I know whatever Nasty Gal Sophia Amoruso produces will be worth listening to.
The only things we spend time and money on are things that we believe are worth more than they cost. The key word here is "believe"
To believe in something is to believe in a story. Believe is subjective, it's an emotion, it's the perception of something, it's in the eye of the beholder.
A change in perceived value can be just as satisfying as what we consider “real” value and this has interesting consequences for how we look at companies, products, ideas.
My favorite illustration of this dates back to the 1800s. Frederick the Great was very keen for the Germans to adopt the potato.because he realized that having two sources of carbohydrates (wheat and potatoes), would reduce price volatility in bread. The only problem is: potatoes, if you think about it, look pretty disgusting.
So he tried making it compulsory. The Prussian peasantry said, "We can't even get the dogs to eat these damn things. They are absolutely disgusting and they're good for nothing." There are even records of people being executed for refusing to grow potatoes. So he tried plan B, the perception solution, which is he declared the potato to be a royal vegetable; none but the royal family could consume it.
Now, 18th century peasants know that there is one pretty safe rule in life, which is if something is worth guarding, it's worth stealing. Before long, there was a massive underground potato-growing operation in Germany. What he'd effectively done is he'd re-branded the potato. It was an absolute masterpiece.
The point is -there are a lot of problems that can be solved by tinkering with perceived value and messaging without changing the product in the slightest.
Is it a bad thing to make mundane situations seem extraordinary? To portray perfection when reality tells a more dismal tale? And if so, who is being fooled? Does your virtual identity need to be a perfect reflection of who you represent offline? Is it a bad thing if it doesn't?
Numerous artists, like the anonymous photographer behind Hipster Barbie, have criticized the way people use Instagram to make their lives seem more amazing than they are. Here's another brilliant social commentary on the topic.
via Bored Panda
I was having a conversation with my grandfather last Sunday, trying to explain to him what the on-demand economy means. Aside from Uber (which he's used), he wasn't aware of most of the things that I take for granted - Instacart, Shyp, Glamsquad, Waze, Amazon Prime Now.
We are layering on new kinds of magic that are slowly fading into the ordinary. A whole generation is growing up that thinks nothing of summoning cars or groceries, or buying something from Amazon and having it show up in a couple of hours, or talking to personal assistants on their devices and expecting to get results ( (If you haven’t seen the late night TV rant by Louis CK, everything is amazing and nobody’s happy, watch it now!).
But it only takes a conversation with someone 50 years older than us to realize how quickly this all happened. So... what technologies will we take for granted five years from now? Ten? What technologies do we take for granted now, and how did people think they were going to change the world when they were introduced?